I was sitting in a bucket-of-blood bar watching a prize fight on a flat screen TV when who should walk in but a couple of pug nose muckers. I knew these guys by sight, if not by name. They were the estranged cousins of a friend of mine, Zigman Zibanski.
They picked me up by my elbows and planted me rather indelicately against a crumbling brick wall. Chucklehead I was bigger and stronger than Chuckledhead II. He held me up by my neck, his grip stretching my upper vertebra like a giant bed spring wrapped around an African tribal woman's throat.
Chucklehead I was dumb as a chin-up and he spoke first: "You wan' me ta kill 'em now?"
Chucklehead II was smarter than his cousin, but only by a nuance: "Nah," was his reply.
I was gasping stale air when the smarter of the two expounded on my predicament. "Tortelli," he says. "Looks like you been having your way with mobster boss Dambroski's eighteen year old daughter. It seems you took away her cherry, now we gonna take away your life."
Some guys show great boldness when faced with imminent death. They become full of wit and quip sharply in smart banter like Marlow in a Chandler novel. Me, I turn rubbery and inarticulate like an unready 13 year old before his first kiss.
My voice sputtered. My eyes searched desperately the room of old men who were overtaken by a contagion of sudden blindness. In an instant the bartender had become near deaf and raised the volume on the fight. That's when I saw a pock marked apparition. It was the rescuing ghost of Charles Bukowski.
Bukowski turns around Chucklehead I and snuffs a burning cigarette between the ruffian's eyes. A stream of Jim Beam falls on his bald spot before he gets a quick jab to the solar plexus which drops him to the floor. Bukowski then visits the reprobate's head with the poetic heel of his Post Office Issue boot.
Chucklehead II makes the mistake of trying to punch the bard of skid row, which only passes through his ghostly body. In return he gets a snapped elbow and knee to the costume jewellery in between his legs.
Bukowski, with the index finger of each hand, picks up the bleeding trash and drops them noisily into the back alley.
He returns to the bar where I'm still gasping for air. He says: "I was sitting in the Perdition Diner up in heaven. I was looking at a near empty salt shaker that's down to a few grains of rice when God sends this vision that your in trouble. Lucky you got an ethereal being and a muse who care."
Before I can say thanks he starts lecturing. "Tortelli, you're living the worst kind of 'I don't know' life. You are in between blogging and the real thing. In between a few fast and short posts and maybe something more. But you're not making that step that maybe takes you into something better. Maybe you ain't worth nothing more than a hill of beans or a poet's lost lunch. Maybe you're worth a lot more than that. It's for you to find out. That's all I'm saying"
"Thanks, Chuck." I said.
"Don't call me Chuck." With that he disappeared.
I went back to the bar, ordered another drink and watched Michael Buffer announce the match a draw. One Mexican middleweight was as mad as the other. Bukowski would have said fights are better when there's a winner and a loser.